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Study tips to help you smash the HSC

No doubt, the HSC year is a stressful and overwhelming year for all – whether it be the student, the parents or a tutor. It’s a testing time for all as parents aim to support their child through this challenging ride and most of all, the students as they aim to implement positive study habits and work ethic to carry them through the year. Here are some study tips to guide us – parent or student – all through this daunting journey:

  1. Don’t underestimate the power of the syllabus – even though the phrase, “The syllabus is your best friend!” is overused and highly emphasised by teachers, the true power of the syllabus is undeniable. The English syllabus, for example, is designed such that the rubric allows you to gauge the different possibilities for an essay question. Or the Biology syllabus which lists dot point by dot point each aspect of the content which needs to be covered in time for the HSC. Knowing the syllabus well is absolutely imperative to HSC success – seems obvious, but also often forgotten by students. The syllabus is designed to tell you exactly what you are expected to know. Don’t neglect it.
  2. Use your free periods wisely – although teachers emphasise to students the value of free periods as they permit the student to conduct self-study, students often fail to use their study periods effectively. It can be very easy to tell yourself, “I’ll do this when I get home” and to put off your work for later but when you have the privilege of free time during school hours, it’s essential that you don’t waste it. Of course, there’s a lot of distractions during school (whether it be friends or the temptation to ‘quickly’ check Instagram) but don’t fall for it! If your friends are extremely distracting, sit away from them during your free periods if need be. Or switch your phone off if the temptation for social media is too much.
  3. How handy acronyms can be – no matter which combination of HSC subjects you’re undertaking, it’s likely that you’ll find equipping some acronyms helpful in your study. Some examples – the PEEL structure to help you ace your essay structure, PMAT to help you remember the four phases of mitosis and All Stations to Central (ASTC) to help you remember the signs of the trigonometric functions.
  4. The value of practice papers – as important as writing notes or memorising content is, it has no value if you are not regularly doing practice papers. Testing yourself with past papers allows you to test how much you really know, what areas you need improvement in and teaches you how to manage your time in a timed exam.
  5. The importance of NESA’s Glossary of Key Terms – there are varying expectations for the different key terms used in HSC exam questions. For example, answering a “compare” question is different to answering an “evaluate” question. Thus, it is imperative that students are aware of the different key terms that can be used within HSC questions and how to answer them.

The HSC year is a stressful journey for all. But it’s also a rewarding year. A year where all your hard work comes to fruition, a year of many lasts and many achievements – make sure to enjoy it! Make the most of it.

Where to find Selective School practice papers

If your child is considering taking the selective school exam, then you will want to find some practice papers to revise and prepare for the selective school test.

The test itself is very challenging and the competition is fierce with many students preparing for up to 3 years before. For this reason, a solid preparation program is so valuable in helping your child prepare for the selective school test.

Understanding the layout of the selective school exam is really important. It is comprised of 4 different sections:

  • Reading – 45 questions in 40 minutes
  • Mathematics – 40 questions in 40 minutes
  • General Ability – 60 questions in 40 minutes
  • Writing – one piece of writing marked out of 20, usually persuasive or creative.

For the majority of students, the general ability paper presents the biggest challenge in terms of content and timing. These are questions that are difficult to prepare for, such as understanding the definitions of complex words or recognising patterns. 60 questions in 40 minutes leaves just 45 seconds per question which is challenging for even the brightest of students.

The good news is that the selective school test is not negatively marked. This means that in the event of your child not knowing the correct answer it is more beneficial for them to go for the best option, or if required, take a guess and hope that they make the right decision!

How to prepare for the selective school exam

Practice, practice, practice! The most valuable thing a student can do to prepare for the selective school test is to go over as many practice papers as they can, as many times as they can. It doesn’t matter if they repeat the same paper 2 or 3 times – the value is in understanding and recognising the question types and patterns rather than the specific question.

Nothing compares to the support of an Alchemy tutor to help your child prepare for the selective school test. We have been helping students get in to selective schools since 2006 with thousands of success stories all across the state. Our tutors are specifically accredited to tutor for the selective school exam and receive comprehensive training to prepare them for this. Our one-on-one preparation program has been tested and refined over more than a decade to give your child the very best opportunity in getting in to the selective school of their choice. Learn more here.

Where to find selective school practice papers

There are a number of both paid and free options available to you. Your first stop should be through the official NSW Government website – they currently offer a small collection of practice papers for you to download for free (3 or 4 for each section). These provide a great foundation to work with and will allow your child to discover their own areas of strength and weakness.

Following on from this, there are a number of companies out there selling practice papers both online and in physical print. We can not offer any advice on the quality of these papers, so please do your research as some of these are selling for $500+.

Should you choose to work with an Alchemy tutor, we have designed dozens of practice papers that your tutor will have full access to. Together, your child and your tutor will work through these practice papers – identifying patterns and trends in the questions. These papers are the closest to the real thing we have seen available to students. We do not sell these papers or give them away – they are reserved exclusively for our students that work one-on-one with an Alchemy tutor. With these resources paired up with the knowledge and experience of an Alchemy tutor – your child will be in the best possible position to succeed in the selective school test. Learn more here.

Have you seen what other parents have said about us? See why we have more 5-star reviews than anyone else here.

Time management in the HSC

It’s not rare during your HSC year that you assure yourself at the start of the term, “Ah, I’ve got plenty of time,” and next thing you know – it’s week 9: you’ve got assignments after assignments, more tests than you can count piling on and you barely know the content. On top of that – your teachers are still assigning homework!

How are you possibly going to manage all of this? There’s simply not enough time! Sure, you might still manage to finish – with the help of caffeine and all-nighters – but is your work going to be of the highest standard you know you’re capable of?

Probably not.

This, exactly, is why time is of the essence. Here are some tips to help you manage your time and achieve the results that you know you can: 

  • Know your deadlines – keep track of when your assignments are due, when your exams are and by when you need to finish any homework you’ve been assigned. Write it in a diary, log it in your phone calendar or just scrawl a reminder onto the back of your hand. Stick post-it notes with important deadlines all over your study space – the possibilities are endless! This way, you’re able to track which tasks – whether it’s finishing a Maths exercise or writing a paragraph for English – are urgent and you must finish as soon as possible and which tasks you can assign for another time.
  • Start assignments super early – you’ve got an assignment? Start it. Now! You’re preventing stress so that you’re not forced to stay up until 6am finishing off the assignment you have due at 8am. It’s just not worth it. This allows you to have multiple drafts of an English essay or different ideas on what to include in a Biology depth study. You can also submit your drafts to your teachers and have plenty of time to review and edit to ensure absolute perfection. This way, you know you’ve done the most you can. Your work is of the highest quality it possibly can be and you’re not sacrificing your sleep. It’s a win-win situation.
  • Don’t leave your notes to the last minute – don’t leave it for ‘later’. I spent the week before my Year 11 yearly examinations compiling my notes for Biology. Suffice to say, this was not effective at all. I barely had time to finish my notes, let alone actually understand the content. It’s imperative that you’re not unnecessarily wasting your time on notes when it would be much better spent on study. Start your notes as early as you can – during the holidays (when you’ve got most time) is the best option. This allows you to consistently review and learn your content throughout the term and by the time exam time comes around, you can spend more time applying your knowledge than you do learning it.

Managing your time effectively during the HSC seems difficult at first. But it’s not impossible. It simply just requires discipline, setting up good study habits and the ability to avoid falling down the rabbit hole of saying, “Ah, I’ll do this some other day.” Start now. Start today.

What I wish I had known before starting my HSC year

The HSC is, essentially, what our 13 years of schooling have led up to. The culmination of years and years of schooling. Of hard work. So it’s only natural that we’re fixated on doing the best we possibly can. Obtaining the ATAR for your dream course. Or your dream university. And of course, that’s fantastic – do your absolute best! Work hard. But at the heart of it all, the HSC is so much more than your marks and your ATAR. This is just one of the many things I wish I had known prior to starting my HSC year:

  1. It’s not the end. It’s cliché, I know. You’ve probably heard it before, but I don’t believe there’s a greater truth about the entire HSC journey. The HSC isn’t the beginning of your life, nor is it the end. Life will continue – whether you achieve the results you wanted or not. There’s so many bigger and better things to come. Don’t beat yourself over a mark you’re not happy with. In reality, it won’t even matter. Not in 10 years’ time, not in 5 years’ time – not even in one year’s time.
  2. You will make it into university. University isn’t the desired path for all of us – some already have their path figured out; whether it be an apprenticeship, or a TAFE course or a gap year. But for those looking into university entry straight after high school – it’s easy it look at the ATAR requirements for your dream course and freak out. But, I assure you – you will receive university offers. For example, there’s the School Recommendations Schemes (SRS), in which universities make early offers to students based on criteria other than the ATAR. There’s also the Educational Access Scheme, taking into account any disadvantages that you may have had during your HSC year. So, not to stress! You will make it into university.
  3. Nobody cares about your ATAR. It’s strange; especially considering, we spend our HSC year beating ourselves because we believe that one bad mark has left our dream ATAR hanging by a thread. Or because we’ve left our ranking slip. In reality, though, once school is over – nobody is going to ask you what your ATAR was. You’re not going to be walking around with your ATAR plastered on your forehead in red letters. Nobody will know your ATAR – instead, what they’ll see is your passions, your work ethic and your achievements.

Most of all, have fun during your HSC year. You only do it once. The year of many lasts – last day of school, last school assembly, last free periods, last swimming carnival and so many more. Make it count. Work hard, but not so hard that you can’t remember the fun of it all. Because Year 12 is certainly a year worth remembering.

Schools offering OC Classes in NSW

There are 76 primary schools in NSW offering OC Classes:

School name (Click to view school website)
ARMIDALE CITY Faulkner St, Armidale
ALEXANDRIA PARK Park Rd, Alexandria
ALSTONVILLE Main St, Alstonville
ARTARMON McMillan Rd, Artarmon
ASHFIELD Liverpool Rd, Ashfield
BALGOWLAH HEIGHTS Lewis St, Balgowlah
BALMAIN Eaton St, Balmain
BATHURST WEST Suttor St, Bathurst
BEECROFT Beecroft Rd, Beecroft
BIRABAN Beckley St, Toronto
BLACKTOWN SOUTH Flushcombe Rd, Blacktown
BLAXCELL STREET Blaxcell St, Granville
BRADBURY Jacaranda Ave, Bradbury
CAMDEN SOUTH Old Hume Hwy, Camden
CARINGBAH NORTH Cawarra Rd, Caringbah
CASULA De Meyrick Ave, Casula
CESSNOCK WEST Cnr Campbell Street and Wollombi Rd, Cessnock
CHATSWOOD Centennial Ave, Chatswood
COLYTON Nelson St, Mount Druitt
COONABARABRAN Newell Hwy, Coonabarabran
CUDGEGONG VALLEY Madeira Rd, Mudgee
DUBBO WEST East St, Dubbo
DURAL Old Northern Rd, Dural
EARLWOOD Homer St, Earlwood
ERMINGTON Winbourne St, West Ryde
GEORGES HALL Pennington Ave, Georges Hall
GLENBROOK Woodville St, Glenbrook
GOONELLABAH Ballina Rd, Goonellabah
GOSFORD Faunce St West, West Gosford
GOULBURN WEST Combermere St, Goulburn
GREENACRE Waterloo Rd, Greenacre
GREYSTANES Merrylands Rd, Greystanes
HARRINGTON STREET Harrington St, Cabramatta
HOLSWORTHY Infantry Pde, Holsworthy
HURSTVILLE Forest Rd, Hurstville
ILLAROO ROAD Illaroo Rd, Nowra
IRONBARK RIDGE Ironbark Ridge Rd, Rouse Hill
JEWELLS Lepton Pde, Jewells
KINGSWOOD Second Ave, Kingswood
LEUMEAH Burrendong Rd, Leumeah
LITHGOW Mort St, Lithgow
MARYLAND John T Bell Dr, Maryland, Newcastle
MATTHEW PEARCE Astoria Park Rd, Baulkham Hills
MONA VALE Waratah St, Mona Vale
MOREE Albert St, Moree
NEUTRAL BAY Ben Boyd Rd, Neutral Bay
NEWBRIDGE HEIGHTS Lewin & Magree Cres, Chipping Norton
NEW LAMBTON SOUTH St James Rd, New Lambton
NORTH ROCKS North Rocks Rd, North Rocks
PICNIC POINT Thomas St, Picnic Point
PORT MACQUARIE Grant St, Port Macquarie
QUAKERS HILL Medlow Dr, Quakers Hill
QUEANBEYAN SOUTH Cameron Rd, Queanbeyan
RICHMOND Windsor St, Richmond
RUTHERFORD Weblands St, Rutherford
RYDE Pope St, Ryde
SMITHFIELD O’Connell St, Smithfield
SOLDIERS POINT Cromarty Rd, Soldiers Point
SOUTH GRAFTON Vere St, South Grafton
ST ANDREWS Ballantrae Dr, St Andrews
ST JOHNS PARK Sandringham St, St Johns Park
STURT White Ave, Wagga Wagga
SUMMER HILL Moonbie St, Summer Hill
SUTHERLAND Eton St, Sutherland
TAHMOOR Bronzewing St, Tahmoor
TAMWORTH Napier St, Tamworth
TAMWORTH SOUTH Petra Ave, Tamworth
TIGHES HILL Elizabeth St, Tighes Hill
TOORMINA Cavanba Rd, Toormina
WAITARA Edgeworth David Ave, Wahroonga
WENTWORTH FALLS Falls Rd, Wentworth Falls
WILKINS Park Rd, Marrickville
WOLLONGONG Church St, Wollongong
WOOLLAHRA Forth St, Woollahra
WYONG Cutler Dr, Wyong

View all schools on a map here.

Alchemy Tuition have been offering OC Class test preparation for more than a decade – helping hundreds of students get in to the OC class of their choice. We provide one-on-one in-home tuition for the OC test that targets your child’s unique learning style. See why we have more 5-star reviews than anywhere else! Get started with an Alchemy Tutor today.